- There is no denying the fact that India as a country lacks all-encompassing sporting culture to produce international quality athletes well trained to compete with the best in the business. Even though the country nurtures ambitions to be counted amongst the best in the sporting arena, especially international competitions like the Olympics and World Championships, our returns whilst competing in those highly professional platforms are not encouraging at all. Save for flashes of brilliance here and there like shooter Abhinav Bindra and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra winning Gold in the Olympics, the history of Indian sports has very few instances of glory to celebrate.
- Of course, efforts are on to ensure there is an uptick on this matter sooner than later. During the last few years, the Indian Government has made concerted efforts to identify, train, sponsor, incentivize, and award outstanding sportsmen in several disciplines with an eye to win medals at some of the world’s marquee competitions. Several private players like business conglomerates and big corporate houses are at the forefront in sponsoring deserving athletes too. Nonetheless, we have a long way to traverse before laying claim to be counted amongst the serious sporting nations well prepared to strike rich at different platforms.
- The fact of the matter is except for cricket, none of the sports disciplines are neither popular nor attract adequate sponsorships. No wonder, the majority of parents want their wards to take up cricket rather than any other sport. Against this backdrop, Prime Minister while laying the foundation stone for the Major Dhyan Chand Sports University in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh mentioning that young Indians should be encouraged to take up sports as their profession, makes for an interesting assessment. The thought behind such exhortations is welcome but the reality is forbidding. As mentioned above, the sporting infrastructure in the country remains subpar.
- Agreed, India just had its best showing in the Olympics when it won seven medals at the Tokyo Games last year, including Neeraj Chopra’s historic gold in the men’s javelin event. However, barring cricket other sports in the country continues to lack an ecosystem of professionalism and excellence to compete at the highest levels. What can be envisaged to position ourselves as a sporting country to reckon with? Let’s look at the options. Remember, a huge amount of funding for nurturing talent rarely gets funneled to the grassroots where it is needed. Mind you, money is also required to train coaches, support staff, and advisers in line with the fast-evolving international standards.
- There is no way but to emphasize building strong sporting cultures in universities that not just produce top-ranked athletes but also employ trainers, sports doctors, and scientists. Sadly, without a similar university set up in India, it is the government that has to think of innovative ways to massively increase funding for sports. Need of the hour is to come up with credible sports ecosystems to crop up and what better way than to establish any number of sporting universities across the country to act as a bridge. Once, the sporting ecosystem is in place, private investors will automatically be drawn in, making sports professionally viable for the millions of enthusiasts.